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Underrated Eagles to Watch this Season

Linebackers

Finalizing the Eagles’ 53-man roster this year will be no easy task with so much intriguing talent.

With exceptional depth, it is easy to overlook certain players whether they are just role players or potential starters. Philadelphia has only started ramping things up at training camp, but some continue to impress more than expected.

New additions to the team have been making noise and proving that they are already significant parts of the team. Specifically, A.J. Brown has been a large part of Jalen Hurts’ progression from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, James Bradberry working opposite of Darius Slay is looking dangerous, so far. While the stars are determined to shine, those lesser-known players will benefit from an opposing team’s lack of focus on these possibly forgotten players.

T.J. Edwards

The Eagles linebacker is entering his fourth NFL season and he has displayed solid improvement each season. Recent reports have highlighted specific players that have thoroughly impressed during training camp, and Edwards has worked his way into that category. After an apparent strong offseason of personal training, Edwards has slimmed down a tad and will be able to keep up with offensive skill players more efficiently.

Edwards is easily one of the most underrated players on the team. With all of the attention that the new additions are getting, he certainly has a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is still a massively important part of this defense. There is plenty of excitement with the presence of Kyzir White and Nakobe Dean being around, but Edwards is the veteran piece that holds everything together. Edwards’ improvement has been very encouraging to see as the linebacker room has underperformed over practically the last decade.

With 130 total tackles last season, the former Wisconsin linebacker’s total tackles have increased every year due to his constant increase in playing time. His progression over the last number of seasons has made him a bright spot in an oftentimes disappointing linebacker core. Edwards has improved in the pass coverage game, showing instances last season displaying his ability to be more than a primarily one-dimensional run-stopping backer. Although there is added depth to the linebacker core, expect Edwards to remain as the primary man in the middle running the show on defense.

Josh Sweat

Last season’s pass-rush game was rather dissatisfying and uncharacteristic. For a Philadelphia team that has taken pride in its defensive line’s ability to put pressure on offenses, players need to step up. Sweat was a bright spot in an average defense last season and he has the ability to be a true game-changer.

Playing alongside such a powerful defensive line, as well as having a productive pass rusher in Haason Reddick with him will heighten his game. Additionally, the presence of Reddick will be a distraction for offenses, which should reveal more chances to get to the QB quicker. Sweat had a 26% pass-rush win rate last season which was among edge defenders and just slightly behind Myles Garrett. With Reddick around, Sweat will get more one-on-one opportunities thus increasing his already progressing production.

Being one of the more promising aspects of the Eagles’ defense last season displayed that he can be easily trusted. When Brandon Graham went down with his season-ending injury, Sweat filled right in with the next-man-up mentality. This 2022 defensive unit is thoroughly diverse and compelling, the former Florida State product will be a major element to the success of this new and improved group.

Kenny Gainwell

The running back room has become one of the more controversial topics lately in training camp. The second-year running back Gainwell demonstrated his playmaking ability last season in the occasional absence of Miles Sanders. Now that Gainwell has a full year under his belt and has become another solid option in the receiving game, the possibilities are endless for the young ball carrier.

Miles Sanders has faced some backlash due to his injury problems, fumble struggles, and media interactions. Despite all of that, Sanders is still the best running back to be the starter, but Gainwell is certainly poking his head into the conversation. Reports of Gainwell getting first-team reps in training camp is nothing more than a chance to give him a chance to get a feel for that position because his playing time is destined to increase this season. Sanders should remain as the starting running back, but Gainwell is a special player that the opposing defenses can be shocked by when they overlook him.

The 2021 fifth-round pick has definitely gained leverage on workhorse Boston Scott, as well. Gainwell can be a major factor because of his increasing presence in the receiving game as his 33 receptions last season were the most among Philadelphia running backs. Gainwell is easily a player who can provide top-notch productivity at any time. Philadelphia trusts him to be an impactful role player who can evolve into a dangerous weapon for the offense.

Landon Dickerson

This offensive line in Philadelphia has become one of the most impressive and dominating units in the league. The work that Jeff Stoutland has put into molding this offensive line into such an imposing group is monumental. Aside from the spectacular growth of Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson has quickly turned into a dependable replacement for the recently retired Brandon Brooks.

The offensive guard spot has been a specific area of concern for the last number of seasons when Brooks was injured and unreliable replacements had to be played. Dickerson started out somewhat slow, which is no surprise as a rookie, but his development throughout the season eliminated any notions of doubt. Especially with Dickerson’s recovery from his late college injury, the promising play that he displayed in such a short period of time shows how much of a steal he was in the 2021 draft.

The former Alabama product will get his chance to really show how much of an impact he can be. With an offensive line that is so respected and feared, defenses are going to look for any possible weakness. Being only a second-year player, opposing teams will likely flag Dickerson as the weak link due to his inexperience, but he will undeniably take advantage of their underestimation of him.

– You can reach Alex Schmidt at schmidty2436@gmail.com